The Senate Independent Democratic Conference’s latest push? Reviving the agriculture industry.
The four members of the IDC — Sens. David Carlucci of Clarkstown, David Valesky of Oneida, Jeff Klein of the Bronx, and Staten Island’s Diane Savino — announced the introduction of a package of bills today meant to help promote the state’s struggling farm industry.
One of the bills, sponsored by Carlucci, would extend a $100 tax break to restaurants for every $1,000 of New York produce they purchase, which the senator says would help establish the state as a leader in local food.
“What this does is add another incentive … so that New York, with the tens of thousands of restaurants we have, we could be leaders in this industry, and really improve sales from local farms, but also improve business for restaurants as well,” Carlucci said. “It’s a real win-win situation, and also we believe it would help encourage tourism in New York state.”
The bills sit in various stages of the legislative process, and most have Assembly sponsors, according to the IDC. One, which was sponsored by Klein and would allow the state’s development branch to invest in farmer’s markets, passed the Senate earlier this year.
Courtesy of the IDC, the full package of bills is listed below, along with a description from the conference:
The IDC proposes:
-Preventing utility companies from charging fees and penalties to farmers who install small-scale, on-site power generators on their property (S.652). Currently, farmers who seek to install devices on their land, such as small wind turbines, or bio gas generators, that would offset rising energy costs are often subjected to penalties or extra charges from their existing energy provider.
-Opening up new financing options for farmers, by creating a tax incentive to entice domestic life insurance companies to invest in agriculture (S.4296). These companies, which invest life insurance premiums as part of their business model, would help fill the void of commercial banks that by and large have stopped lending to continue farm operations. In exchange for the incentive, a conservation easement will be placed on the land that ensures its continued use for agriculture.
-Directing the Department of Agriculture and Markets to create an overall blueprint for sustaining agriculture in New York (S.5377).
-Creating a tax incentive for restaurants who purchase produce from a farm participating in the Pride of New York program (S.4889). The credit would be for $100 for every $1,000 of produce purchased. This measure would not only result in more New York State produce being sold, but will also further promote the Pride in New York program.
– Allowing the Urban Development Corporation/ Empire State Development Corp. to make low interest loans, or award grants to help farmers upgrade the transportation of their products (S.614B). This is a companion bill to IDC legislation that has already passed the Senate (S.627) that would allow UDC investment in the expansion of regional Farmer’s Markets. These bills not only help farmers, but also increase the availability of fresh produce in lower income urban areas. A 2008 study by the New York City Department of Planning showed the number of food and grocery stores declining, leaving many to buy groceries in chain pharmacies and convenience stores that do not have a wide selective of produce.
– Making it easier for small wineries to sell their product to restaurants (S.1909). Currently, wineries who wish to make such sales are required to register as a wine wholesaler and comply with record keeping requirements that small wine makers simply do not have the manpower, nor expertise to handle.
– Allowing wineries to be able to rent their space to home wine makers (S.4533). Other major wine producing states, such as California and Washington, already allow this additional revenue stream.
– Creating a new farm brewery license (S.5078), which would allow farmers to brew beer on their property as long as they use a certain percentage of New York State grown products. The bill would allow commercial sales on farm property and would cap the number of barrels brewed under this license to 15,000 a year.